Dog parents often observe puzzling behaviors in their fur babies. One such behavior is sleeping in the sun. Even when it looks to be quite hot and uncomfortable, dogs tend to do it. So what’s the secret? Why do dogs lay in the sun?
If you’re thinking they just do this like humans, i.e., to sunbathe, then you’re not wrong. But you’re not completely right either. Dogs find it comfortable to spend hours in the sun, that’s true, but there are also more complicated reasons involved in this.
If you’re wondering if your sunbathing dog will get sick from such prolonged exposure to the sun and the heat, you just need to be vigilant, and it would not hurt your dog. You can also take some measures to make sure your dog is unharmed and comfortable where he is.
So, this is what today’s blog post is about: dogs lay in the sun. We’ll talk extensively about why dogs do it, what the benefits are, what the dangers are, and what you should do as the owner. Let’s go!
Why Do Dogs Lay in the Sun
What do you, a human, do when the weather is sunny? Most of us take advantage of the pleasant weather and spend some time soaking up the sunlight. If you understand this impulse, you’d understand that dogs do it for the same reason. It just feels good to sunbathe!
Sunbathing is such a pleasant experience, that dogs specifically pick out their favorite spot that gets a lot of sunlight, and regularly sunbathe there. This also has a lot to do with the health benefits they get from the action, such as:
Sunbathing helps humans to get more vitamin D. Staying in direct sunlight for about 15-20 minutes breaks down the oils under our skin and produces vitamin D that then enters our bloodstream. So it’s enough to say we need sunlight to get vitamin D3. It’s quite similar for dogs too.
Of course, the mechanism isn’t the same in a dog’s body. Dogs have fur, so the vitamin D isn’t absorbed readily into their bloodstream like in humans. They have a different mechanism to access this vitamin.
Do you want to know what happens? Dogs have to lick themselves and ingest this vitamin D that’s produced after prolonged exposure to the sun. So if you see your dog grooming himself while or after sunbathing, he’s just getting himself some vitamins.
A lot of the vitamin D in a dog’s body comes from its diet. But exposure to sunlight is still important. Without vitamin D, a dog’s body cannot process calcium. Vitamin D is also essential for bone formation, and muscle and nerve control.
Being in the sun inevitably warms your dog up. It’s through this process that dogs can regulate their body temperature. They also obtain this effect through cuddling, as you’ll often see your dog cuddling with you or the other pets in the household. It makes them comfortable.
Who doesn’t want their dog to be happy? You’ll be glad to know that sunlight helps with that as well. Exposure to sunlight increases the levels of serotonin in your dog’s body. This makes him relaxed, focused, and happy! You’ll notice your dog being more agreeable when he gets to sunbathe often.
If you’re worried about your dog rolling around in dirt all day, every day, and wondering if you’ll have to spend more money on antibacterial products, don’t bother! Sunlight has an antibacterial effect, and sunbathing regularly means the bacteria and yeast on your dog’s body get killed.
Maintains the Circadian Rhythm
A healthy circadian rhythm is important for your dog’s overall well-being. Exposing your dog to early morning sunlight is important to kick-start his metabolism. Throughout the day, the composition of the sunlight changes, and when your dog is exposed to it little by little, his circadian rhythm stays correct.
Potential Dangers of Being Out in the Sun Too Much
Now that we’ve established that being out in the sun is good for your dog, let’s talk about how too much of that can be potentially bad. To be fair, everything should be practiced in moderation, and that also goes for a dog sunbathing. Here are some potentially negative outcomes of a dog being out in the sun too much-
Humans aren’t the only ones who need to be careful about being burned when they’re in the sun for too long. You should also be worried about your dog. Yes, your dog is mostly covered in fur. But there are places like the nose, ears, and belly that can still get sunburnt pretty badly.
Breeds that have shorter and lighter fur are more susceptible to sunburns. How to prevent this? Humans prevent sunburns using sunscreen or sunblocks, and you can get your dog some doggy sunscreen lotion or spray.
Don’t use human sunscreen, as it might be toxic to the dog. Aside from sunscreen, it’s a good idea to make sure your dog has access to shade. If the sunlight becomes unbearable, he will seek shade himself.
As dogs don’t sweat, they’re at risk of heat exhaustion. While light-haired dogs will get sunburnt easily, dark-haired dogs will absorb heat from the sun quickly, and run the risk of heat exhaustion.
Brachycephalic dogs are even more susceptible to heat exhaustion, as they have trouble cooling off in the heat. You’ll notice your dog displaying signs of heat exhaustion by panting with his tongue out, being unusually thirsty, or even vomiting and having diarrhea.
To prevent heat exhaustion, it’s important to not let your dog stay out too long on hot days. Always offer a shady place and plenty of clean water for him to drink. Keep an eye out for the symptoms when your dog is sunbathing.
If you’re not vigilant and let your dog get affected by heat exhaustion, then you put him at risk of a heat stroke. Due to prolonged exposure to sunlight on a hot day, if the body temperature of your dog reaches past 106°F (41°C), a heat stroke is imminent.
At this point, your dog’s body fails to cool itself down. The internal systems also stop functioning. In the worst cases, your dog starts to have seizures and stops responding. Taking him to a vet right away is the only thing you should do. Don’t even think about home remedies!
Just like how humans and dogs both are susceptible to sunburns, they’re also susceptible to skin cancer. Depending on which breed your dog is, the type of skin cancer he’s most at risk of will differ. All the same, any dog might be at risk of skin cancer.
Keep an eye out for any unusual-looking markings or patches on your dog’s skin. If you find something, don’t hesitate to talk to a vet about it.
How to Make Sure Your Dog Gets Enough Sun
Do dogs need sunlight? Absolutely! I hope that by now, there’s no doubt in your mind about it. However, you’ve also seen that too much sun can cause dangers such as sunburn or even a heat stroke.
So make sure your dog is getting enough sun, but not too much of it. But how does one ensure their dog is sunbathing safely? Here are some tips:
- Dogs usually need anywhere between 30-40 minutes of sunlight, depending on their breed and size. If your dogs are lay out in the sun for longer than this, be vigilant.
- Use dog-safe sunscreen.
- If you’re feeling uncomfortable in the sun, your dog may be, too. Cut your sunbathing short and get both yourself and your dog indoors.
- Never sunbathe in a place where your dog cannot go and sit in the shade nearby. Always sunbathe near a tree, or prepare an umbrella.
- No matter where you are, ensure that your dog has access to clean, cool water to drink.
- If the day is too hot, keep a dog cooling mat in the shade. Your dog will appreciate the chance to cool off comfortably.
- In the absence of sunny days, you can still arrange for your dog to get the benefits of sunlight. You can get UVB lights or even full-spectrum ones. These lights come as bulbs, tubes, lamps, or even lightboxes. However, be careful that you don’t overexpose your dog to this light.
Why do dogs lay in the sun? Now you know the answer! If you’ve ever been worried about your dog being hurt by too much exposure to the sun, now you know how to prevent that too! The best idea, in my opinion, is to just take a sunbath along with your dog!
Wear sunscreen, and apply some doggy sunscreen on your dog! After 20-30 minutes, cut your sunbathing short and take your dog along with you in the shade. If you feel thirsty, you’ll know your dog needs water! Avoid the dangers of sun exhaustion, and all will be well.